Sydney Project

More deep dives reveal true identity of Bermagui shipwreck

Sydney Project diver Samir Alhafith suited up before an earlier dive off Bermagui showing all the equipment needed to reach such extreme depths

By Stan Gorton - Marooma News

Volunteer extreme scuba divers have come up with a surprising revelation about the real identity of a World War II shipwreck off Bermagui.

The wreck formerly thought to be the BHP freighter Iron Knight is now believed to be another wartime ship sunk by a Japanese submarine.

Divers from the Sydney Project extreme diving group have continued their programs of dives on ships where they lie 120 to 140 metres down on the edge of the continental shelf.

The dives are not without risk as the project lost one of their own when diver Sven Paepke died in 2007 diving on the wreck formerly thought to be the Iron Knight. His body has never been recovered.

The ship first located by trawlers operating out of Bermagui was incorrectly identified as the Iron Knight the year before thanks to Sydney Project dives.

The NSW Heritage Office then organised a ceremony of relatives of the Iron Knight to lay wreaths on the site, but now it is believed that wreck is more likely out beyond 40 kilometres in the shipping lines and at least 4 kilometres down where it will probably never be found.

The real identity of the wreck formerly thought to be Iron Knight has become clearer thanks to the continued efforts of the Sydney Project.

“The public during war and even now didn’t realise how much submarine activity there was,” Sydney Project diver Samir Alhafith said.

“The depths make it harder but we’re bringing to history to life and revealing how many ships and lives were lost during the war.”

Mr Alhafith and his colleagues have dived on the wreck and another nearby wreck known to be that of the Liberty ship William Dawes six times in the last year or so.

Each time they have been taken out and assisted by local charter boat operator Keith Appleby.

Diving on a wreck 120 metres down entails dropping quickly to the bottom for a bottom-time of just 20 to 25 minutes and then slowly coming back with a decompression time of up to five and half hours.

Mr Alahfith said the certain factors about the shipwreck formerly thought to be Iron Knight were just not adding up with underwater scooters allowing the divers to transverse the full length of the wrecks.